This being my first Chinese New Year since relocating with my family back to the UK, I'm reminded of the first time we experienced this great festival having done the opposite journey - moving to China back in 1999. It turned out to be one of the most remarkable displays of Chinese hospitality I've experienced so far.
We'd been living in Zhengzhou (Henan Province, central China) for little more than 6 months, and though it had been an amazing time, there were still a lot of challenges. For one thing, it was VERY cold. And our flat was only heated with an oil-filled electrical heater. The landlord had left a thermometer by the bed - maybe we should have realised that was odd when we first moved in. By January the roads were covered in frozen snow, and we were waking up in a room that was just a degree or two above freezing. Then, as New Year approached, what we'd heard rumoured before happened - the city started emptying out. "New Year Festival is always better in the villages" everyone said. That's because the cities were growing so fast, most people's parents and grandparents lived in the countryside, or in smaller towns - so that was where they all went. It's happening this year too, of course (see here for a great blog article from Beijing). Anyway, we were cold and pretty fed up. Even the restaurants were closed, so no joy there either!
That was when we received a phone call from another British friend, telling us the vice-pesident of her university and his wife had invited her to eat with them the next day - Chinese New Year's Day - and she'd been asked to bring some friends along. So she was asking us. And, most amazingly, the invitation was to his home - they were going to cook for us.
Now we live in the UK again, the closest approximation I can imagine would be if we invited some Chinese students to join us on Christmas Day, and purposefuly changed our Christmas dinner to make sure their tastes were catered for (rice available, and some fresh fruit, say). Or even took them to the best Chinese restaurant instead, with some Christmas cake in tow.
Anyway, that's my memory. Happy New Year! 新年快乐！恭喜发财！